Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Puppy Therapy

January 1, 2013 marked a monumental day. Not only was this the start of another year, it was also the day that 6 little puppies came into this world. Over the past few weeks, these pups have proven to be pretty therapeutic.

 Kourtney, one of the other AmeriCorps members and my site partner at The Lord's Place, sent me multiple videos and pictures back on New Year's Day while I was lounging on an inflatable at the Orange Bowl Pre-Game Kickoff Party. I was so excited to meet the little guys when they were big enough and able to be around other people.

That time finally came about a month ago. Kourtney has been staying up in Stuart with her parents since Christmas break, so her roommates, Justin and Kayla, and I decided to pay a visit to her and meet the little guys. Needless to say, Roscoe, Chunk, Pebbles, Sadie, Noelle, and Molly stole our hearts. The level of cuteness was off the charts!

Since that first encounter, I've been back up to visit the pups a couple of times. Every time that I see them - no matter what is happening in my life, no matter what struggles I'm dealing with - I feel refreshed and re-centered. It's amazing how six little bundles of fluff and spunk can rejuvenate a person.

By now, the six are now two as Kourtney has found loving homes for all of the pups. The last two will be delivered to their new owners this weekend, so tomorrow night (Wednesday) I'm heading up to Stuart one last time to spend some quality time with my new favorite form of therapy.

Chief Osceloa (Brown/White) and Zoey (White) - proud parents of the six little pups

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sidewalk Chalkin' Up a Storm

This past weekend, the town of Lake Worth hosted a street art festival, in which dozens of local artists converged on the main city streets and turned the boring, old paved roads into a canvas to showcase their talents. These artists took photographs and other pictures and drew them out in chalk for the public and other spectators to take in and enjoy. Sadly, some of the pieces were washed out by a rain storm Saturday night, but there were still tons of drawings to enjoy when my friend Phetsada and I went to go check them out on Sunday.

Outside of the drawings, there was other entertainment, tons of food, and other activities for participants to take part in. Watching these people create their works of art was a really awesome sight to see and a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon here in sunny Florida!

Traveling art project from New Orleans that challenges people to consider what they would like to do before they die - very interesting concept and answers

One of my favorite Dr. Seuss books of all time!

The many faces of the actor Johnny Depp (Edward Scissorhands, Captain Jack Sparrow, the Mad Hatter, Willy Wonka)

View of one of the streets in Lake Worth where the artists gathered to draw and socialize

Even the Beatles made an appearance!

One of my favorites!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

February Gloom...

How is it that the shortest month of the year always seems to drag by like a slug making its way across the road?

Maybe it's the fact that the weather has cooled down a bit (highs in the 60's are killing us down here - sorry to all of my friends and family in the Midwest and other snow stricken regions of the United States). Maybe it's the fact that there haven't really been any service projects to attend to so the weekends seem to last forever (not that that's always a bad thing mind you). Maybe it's the fact that we're about halfway done with our service here, comfortable with our surroundings, and have gotten into a rut.

Whatever the reason may be, this isn't the first time that February has crawled by. I remember feeling the exact same feeling last year when I was in Seoul. It was about this time that I got involved with Mannam and started doing more volunteer work, which definitely provided new and interesting opportunities. Maybe it's time to switch things up a bit and get involved with something new...

Anyone have any suggestions for things I should try out???

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


The life of an AmeriCorps participant has it's ups and downs. Dedicating a year of one's life to helping others around you is one of the most awarding and fulfilling things that anyone can do. Despite all of these emotional rewards and personal victories, there are some other things that many members struggle with. The main, glaring difficulty comes in the form of finances.

Coming into AmeriCorps, it is well known that making money is not one of the things that will come as an end result of participating in the program. Over the course of our year of service, we are given about $12,000 in a living stipend to help offset costs, such as rent, utilities, and other bills that life brings with it. This translates to $437 every two weeks, with the check coming at the end of the month earmarked for rent automatically. This reality definitely leaves a lot to be desired. But, luckily with the prevalence of the internet and deals around, living on this budget is do-able.

Tuesday nights are some of the best nights down here in Palm Beach County. There are multiple deals around the county that are not only delicious but kind on the budget. Bar Louie has $1 burgers (with the purchase of a drink) that are delectable! Extra toppings are $.50, so it's very reasonable to have a burger and a drink for $5.00! Deal! There's also an amazing Mexican restaurant in Boca Raton called Uncle Julio's that offers $1 tacos. These tacos, which can be either of the chicken or beef variety, are served hot, succulent, and ready to devour! These deals definitely make Tuesday one of the best days of the week!

Another big thing down here in Southern Florida is frozen yogurt. Now while this craze hasn't quite made it's way to the Midwest yet, it's on its way! There are various froyo (frozen yogurt) shops in the area and they all offer a different variety of flavors and toppings. For those that are unfamiliar with how froyo works, you head into a store, grab your cup and create your own creation from scratch. Then your cup is weighed on a scale and the weight determines how much you pay. It's a great treat to top off a meal or just to socialize with other members. One of the shops, Yogurtland, used to do a BOGO FROYO (Buy One, Get One Frozen Yogurt) night on Tuesdays (another reason why Tuesday's are amazing). Sadly, they discontinued this service about a month ago. However, this definitely has not deterred us from frequenting this establishment at least once a week (more if it's been a stressful week!)

The Internet is also a great source of deals. There are so many websites that curate deals, it's sometime overwhelming to sift through them all and figure out which ones are the best to use and look at. The two most reliable websites that the majority of us use are Groupon and Livingsocial. These sites are easy to navigate and offer lots of deals to please everyone, no matter what their likes and preferences are. We have utilized these sites multiple times for some great deals. Coming up in March, my roommate Kevin and I are participating in a Mud Challenge race (very similar to a Tough Mudder, but not as long or intense). We found this race deal on Groupon and it helped shave about $50 off the original price. Definitely a great deal considering our budget! The beer festival that I went to down in Miami back in October was also a Groupon/Livingsocial deal. What's nice about these two sites is that they normally have the same deals, but tend to run them at different times. So if you happen to miss the deal on Groupon, you can normally count on Livingsocial offering it a week later.

These little tips, plus trying to take advantage of the other things in the area (free Friday night concerts/movie showings, numerous beaches, $5 Thursday movie nights @ the Boynton Beach Mall, and more) help with the budget constraints. At the very least, by the end of this year of service, I will be a much better budgeter and manager of my monetary funds. Thank you AmeriCorps!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Turtles and Tranquility

Every Friday, instead of going to our sites for the day, we have a member training meeting. The topics that we cover at these meetings vary depending on the month and what's going on. This past Friday, we were originally supposed to go on an Everglades trip, but this was changed at the last minute. Instead, we headed up to Juno Beach and went to the Loggerhead Marina. This marina is known as a hub for rehabbing injured sea turtles. The staff here help rehabilitate the turtles with the intent of setting them free back into the ocean when they are ready to do so. We spent some time looking at the turtles that they are currently working with and then enjoyed a cookout provided by our supervisors, Brad and Audrey. Following eating, we headed down to the beach and took in some rays and enjoyed each other's company. Definitely a great Friday meeting!

Saturday, instead of heading up the Universal in Orlando, my friend Cathy and I decided to head over to the other side of the peninsula to take in Western Florida and see what it had to offer. We rolled out of Boynton in the morning and ended up in Fort Myers. While there we headed to the J.N. Ding's Darling National Wildlife Reserve on Sanibel Island. It was nice to be away from the city and out in the middle of nature. We walked about 4 miles enjoying the trails and sights that the reserve had to offer. Following our time outside, we headed to a little hamburger shop that definitely had the feel of a 60's drive through stop. It was very vintage and made amazing milkshakes! After "fueling" up, we headed to the beach and spent the rest of our time strolling up and down the Gulf of Mexico. The time away from Boynton was definitely needed and helped recharge me for the upcoming week!
Gulf of Mexico and the Fort Myers Pier
Cathy and I taking in the wildlife preserve
Loving the sign Schnapper's!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Halfway Done!

The Wanderings of a Musing Soul has returned. After a 7 month hiatus, I've decided to resurrect this blog to detail the rest of my time here in South Florida with AmeriCorps. For those just joining, AmeriCorps is a service based organization that is found all throughout the United States (very similar to the Peace Corps). I have been down here in Florida since August and have reached the halfway point of my service period! How time flies! For a recap of what I've been doing up to this point, http://livingunderthepalms.wordpress.com/ will catch you up to speed!

Now that February is upon us, things are really starting to click here in West Palm. I'm loving the site that I'm serving at. My supervisor is one of the most relaxed, chilled-out people that I've ever met. The other instructor that I work with closely has been offering my career advice and is looking to start a charter school in the area in a couple of years. If this dream becomes a reality, I would have a job lined up down the road which would be nice. The administrative assistant is like a second mom to me down here, while the CEO takes great strides to make sure that Kourtney (the other AmeriCorps members here at The Lord's Place) and I are comfortable and enjoying our time here at the organization.

February also marks the time that members start thinking about what they will be doing next year when August comes and our time of service here in Palm Beach County has come to an end. For me, I've decided to pursue a position with the Peace Corps. I have complete the application process, passed my interview, and have been nominated for an education position with a tentative departure date of August. At the moment, I'm working on getting fingerprinted (for the 18,000th time in the last 5 years) and submitting my background check. Once all of those are in and it's verified that I'm not a criminal, I will be placed with a Placement Specialist who will match my skills and experience with a site that has an upcoming opening. The Peace Corps is something that I've wanted to do for a long time and close to finally fulfilling that dream is amazing! Who know, if Jim (the other instructor here at TLP) is able to get that charter school up and running, I might have a job all lined up following my 2 years of service!

Outside of work and plans for the future, life is great. I've made some amazing friendships here and continue to bond and grow with the 40 members in the group. On Friday, for our team meeting is going to be held at a marine park and hopefully we'll get to see some sea turtles! So pumped for that! Then after the meeting, a group of us are heading down to Delray Beach to attend Garlic Fest. Apparently everything there centers around Garlic, including garlic ice cream. Should be interesting and fun! A full report to follow afterwards! There's also the possibility of heading up to Universal Studios Saturday for a large Mardi Gras festival that they are having there. Hopefully that all pans out and I can get to Universal for the first time! A friend of mine's brother-in-law has a hookup and can get us a discount on the tickets, which is definitely a plus due to living on the AmeriBudget!

Stay tuned for more exciting updates and insights to life in South Florida!